Identifying and functionally characterising colorectal cancer driver mutations


  • Prof Richard Houlston

    Institute of Cancer Research

  • Dr Nuria Lopez-Bigas

    Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

  • Prof Ian Tomlinson

    University of Birmingham

Project summary

Cancers are caused by mutations in DNA that drive the growth of tumours. Identifying these mutations has resulted in new targeted treatments. However, studies have focused on mutations that cause changes in the proteins that genes encode, without considering the 98% of the cell’s DNA that does not directly make proteins. We already know of a few mutations in this ‘non-coding DNA’ that are important for cancer growth, but there has not been a comprehensive analysis. It is now timely to add non-coding mutations to the catalogue of cancer drivers and decipher their functional consequences. 

We shall focus on bowel cancer and combine DNA sequencing, other laboratory methods and computer programmes to identify new mutations in non-coding and other regions of DNA that are causing bowel cancers to grow. 

This work may lead to new strategies to prevent or treat bowel cancer.